Smart City Challenge: Moving Forward
Last week, we reviewed and commended the proposals from the 7 finalists in the USDOT's Smart City Challenge. Smart cities are the perfect amalgamation of technology and humans. To build a smart city, every single part of the city needs to be involved. This includes schools, hospitals, public places, power plants, transportation system, the list continues. Benefits of smart cities include better management of resources of all sorts, from power to transport. Analysts estimate that by the end of 2016, over 1.7 billion smart city 'things' will be connected. In 2017, that number is expected to grow by an extra one billion devices.
The USDOT's Smart City Challenge was created to help cities define what it means to be a “Smart City “and the winner will become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies. The announcement was made yesterday: Columbus, Ohio will take home the $50 million grant, plus $90 million in local matching contributions. They will be the country’s first to build their city up with technologies such as self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors into their transportation network. What set this city apart was its holistic vision to enable all residents with an easier commute as well as increased access opportunities.
Columbus intends to connect its downtown area with the rest of the city; a new BRT line running directly through Linden, one of the focal points in the plan. The neighbourhood faces many obstacles like high rates of poverty, unemployment, and incarceration; low educational attainment; and significant gaps in the city’s transit network. This new line is to provide its residents better access to employment and health services in downtown Columbus.
The city's plans also include special universal fare cards, allowing riders to pay for transit using a single form of payment. This includes access to public transit and extends to include services like taxis, ride-hailing, and car-sharing. There will also be kiosks installed in various locations which will allow commuters who use cash to pay for any services they may have used. This card could grow to include other services such as confirmation or payments for medical appointments and more.
The other 6 finalists will not be left in the dust. The DOT has announced two new partners who not only will be contributing to the winning city, but has also committed to helping the other 6 finalist cities in building strategies for electric vehicle charging infrastructure to encourage and facilitate the adoption of electric vehicles by individuals, businesses and municipalities (source).
Many of the finalist cities intend to go forward with their plans regardless of not receiving the $50 million grant. Some, like Kansas City, were already working on many of the projects they included in their challenge proposals. After the details were revealed last Thursday, Bob Bennett, the city's Chief Innovation Officer says that private partners have committed $36 million towards executing the important parts of the city's proposal. Denver, Colorado has also announced pledges amounting to $34 million from public and private partners.
Vulcan pledged to continue offering money for electric vehicle and climate change-related projects — and to bring in more money from third parties to support those efforts as well. The DOT is offering assistance in finding, applying for and receiving grant money for various projects. The DOE is making data and modeling services available to support project development. Now those cities will have outside help in making their transportation technology projects happen, and smart cities a reality.